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Quick-and-Dirty (And Dangerous) Wi-Fi Retail Deployments Likely To Be Rampant In 2012

Written by Evan Schuman
November 28th, 2011

As mobile trials of all kinds kick into highgear next year, there’s almost certainly going to be a trend that will signal very bad security news: a soaring number of retail Wi-Fi trials, many of which will likely be quick-and-dirty efforts to be able to support customers who want to use mobile in-store. Wi-Fi security is bad enough as is, let alone what will happen with lot of slapdash rollouts.

Some of the security problems with Wi-Fi are well known and there isn’t a security consultant worth the paranoia they sell who can’t spout their list of the dumbest retail Wi-Fi deployments. There is a small ray of hope. Although Wi-Fi is often quite insecure, the newest Wi-Fi offerings today are a tad bit better. If we can assume that many of the new deployments will be using somewhat more robust approaches, it might be a somewhat smaller catastrophe. Remember that a Wi-Fi mobile disaster doesn’t have to be a security breach. Given how easy it is for a children’s toy or a wireless microphone to disrupt Wi-Fi and potentially halt mobile payments or, even worse, cause double billings, even a data-secure network could cause mobile nightmares. Ahhh, the joys of Wi-Fi.


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2 Comments | Read Quick-and-Dirty (And Dangerous) Wi-Fi Retail Deployments Likely To Be Rampant In 2012

  1. Steve Gurney Says:

    Since chip & pin (EMV) was introduced, the majority of stores, restaurants, hotels, small businesses in Europe have wireless based payment terminals.

    Over the past several years I’ve not seen large scale wi-fi security breaches, or wi-fi disruptions that you talk about. Given that they are obviously using ‘old’ wi-fi technology, and as stated by you, how easy it is to disrupt wi-fi signals we should be well aware of wi-fi’s failings given its widespread adoption for payments in EMEA & APAC?

    So the existing extensive use of wi-fi In payments and lack of issues doesn’t tally with your predictions.

  2. Richard Nedwich Says:

    While a blanket statement of alarm may be too cautionary, there is some merit for concern.

    Major retailers generally follow PCI guidelines, and have IT staff to enforce security policies by choosing reputable enterprise-class WLAN vendors, and following their training and best practices. In fact, some have argued that wireless security is actually superior to wired security in many ways.

    However, the quick serve market of cafes and restaurants and gas stations, etc. have no such IT staff or large budgets to choose enterprise class solutions. While some find it best to rely upon a reputable managed service provider, perhaps too many simply ‘go their own’ by running down to the local Best Buy, or ask some kid on staff to ‘plug and pray’ in order to satiate customer desire for constant connectivity while they sip their java, eat their burger or fill up the tank.

    This is where what you don’t know can hurt you.

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